21 June 2006

Relax, Be Happy, Get Pregnant

With a current fertility rate of nearly 3.5 (one of the highest, worldwide) and a projected population of more than 86 million people this year (up from 76.5 million last May 2000), one would probably think that having children is the least of our problems.

Guess again. There are still couples here in the Philippines who are having a difficult time having children. Life is often ironic. Those who have little or no financial means of sustaining a big family have no problems bearing children, while those who can support a bigger family are slapped with the sad fate of infertility. The latter couples have gone to doctors here and abroad to seek solutions; some are impatient enough to try alternative methods and herbal medicines; some have given up and decided to adopt instead; some have given up after years and years of trying; some were successful enough to bear children.

The good news is that there might be a simple way of having kids....
Researchers in the US found that rising levels of stress can lower a woman's fertility by disrupting her menstrual cycle, and in some cases prevent ovulation completely. But a pilot study of women who had not had a period for at least six months found that psychotherapy had a dramatic effect, lowering stress levels and restoring fertility in 80 percent of cases.

Tests on the women revealed that they had high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Professor Berga split the women into two groups of nine. Half received 20 weeks of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), a form of psychotherapy that was designed to adjust their way of thinking and reduce their stress levels. The other half did not receive any therapy.

Prof Berga said: "A staggering 80 percent of the women who received CBT started to ovulate again, as opposed to only 25 percent of those randomised to observation."

[Guardian, 21 June 2006]

As this study had a small sample size, the lead author plans to do another study involving some 2,000 to 4,000 women to further investigate the link between stress and fertility.

If you want to have kids, learn to be happy. The solution might be easier than we suspect.

16 reactions:

ipanema said...

I have friends who are like this, it's a pity to see her undergo all those tests to no avail. Finally the couple adopted.

To get them to relax and eventually get pregnant is cheaper than having fertility tretments.

That's a scary figure you have there, a projected increase in population? Can't we be practical for once. No increase in savings, no additional mouth to feed, how's this? hmmm...

Dr. Emer said...

I also have friend couples having a difficult time making babies. Some are even doctors. If indeed getting pregnant is just a matter of being happy, it might be easy for some, and still difficult for others who were used to the "stressful" life.

Oh yes, population is still a big problem here, Ipanema. The projection for year 2010 is more than 90 million people already. As long as our President is bowing to the wishes of the Roman Catholic church, I think the trend will continue. With the high fertility rate and a low contraceptive prevalence rate of 49 percent, we see more and more babies coming in the future.

ipanema said...

That's troubling. With per capita income of the country (#102, ranking), I just can imagine household expenditures, that's to say the least. I think there's a need to re-educate people. But then our population is literate enough to understand consequences. Sometimes I can say that these parents are too selfish.

There should be an open mind on population control. Partly to blame is religious attitudes toward contraception that brought us these figures. Why is the faith so opposed on this? Can't they see that the country is growing but there's not enough to feed. Can they answer this?

That's the misconception according to the study related to this, that people may take it literally...the word relax. It doesn't mean that one has just to relax and one can infanticipate. According to the study, one has to teach them how to relax.

Singa Mama said...

getting pregnant is not the only way to have children. there are already enough children existing. i guess instead of trying IVF, people should also be encouraged to warm up to the idea of adoption.

Toni said...

I'm game for some cognitive behaviour therapy. Where can I be a test subject? Hehehe.

I understand the advice of being happy and relaxing. But it's easier said than done. Really.

bayibhyap said...

I know of couples who were unable to have a baby after their marriage. In all the cases the wife was holding a stressful job and also came under pressure from the in-laws to have children (more stress, but only in Asian families does this happen). When the wife eventually resigned from her job, well, you know the happy ending...

So, as Dr Emer advises, don't worry, be happy! And I know he is one happy soul!

tin-tin said...

true! why is it those who would love to have babies are having problems and those who are not ready to have one, will 'accidentally' have one

rolly said...

having four kids myself, my consolation now is that I know me and my wife are a happy couple, hehe

fionski said...

Doc, I've tried all kinds of relaxation techniques but I still cant get pregnant! Huhuhu!

Dr. Emer said...

IPANEMA, TONI, FIONSKI: Please forgive me. I was wrong to say that learning to relax or learning to be happy is an easy task. If it were, then there it shouldn't be a problem in the first place. If there is indeed a solid link between stress and infertility, then it might really take skillful psychologists adept at cognitive behavioral therapy to solve it...and it might take a considerable amount of time and money, too. The normal female is already an emotional being. I can only imagine why ovulation is affected when she is under severe stress. Relaxation and being happy is long journey, indeed.

BAYI and TITO ROLLY: Yes, for some it is easy to be happy and relaxed. I also think it's a team effort. Both the husband and wife should participate in making each other happy.

RUTH: I agree with you. I'm an Angelina Jolie fan. *LOL*

TIN-TIN: As I said, life is ironic. :)

may said...

i surely not a part of this study. both my pregnancies happened when i was extremely stressed. maybe around 3,000 life stress units stressed :)

bing said...

selfishness and emotional instability, ignorance, fanaticism or extreme beliefs, and religion contribute largely to the growing population. and the government is a lame duck with the many issues regarding population control.

with regards to a stress-free life, it's almost next to impossible. and couples, especially the mother, couldnt avoid being stressed with the thought of not having a baby. will take a lot to convince people about this. ;-)

EAB said...

I'm currently pregnant after infertility treatment, and let me tell you, the single most frustrating piece of advice you hear is "just relax, it'll happen". For most causes of infertility, relaxing has absolutely nothing to do with it, and it can be flat-out insulting to hear what amounts to "it's all in your head".

The study you cite only speaks to a single type of fertility disorder, functional hypothalamic amenorrhea, and the "relax" hypothesis is far from universally accepted even for FHA (other researchers link it to nutritional deficiencies). FHA is relatively rare, too, and most causes of infertility are purely physical. In fact, 50% of infertility is male factor, which I think we can all agree isn't due to women's being emotional beings. As for the rest, all the relaxing in the world isn't going to solve premature ovarian failure, or anovulation due to PCOS, or blocked tubes, or uterine abnormalities, or genetic translocations. Infertility has many causes, sometimes several in the same couple, and if you've been trying unsuccessfully for a year, you should be evaluated to rule out physical causes, plain and simple.

Sorry to rant, but this study, and the just-relax attitude in general, makes me cranky.

Dr. Emer said...

I apologize to you as well, Emma, if I made you "cranky." I agree that infertility has varied causes and FHA is probably the only type of infertility that can be remedied by psychotherapy. And even with psychotherapy, there are no sure guarantees.

ipanema said...

We have to take note that we base our comments on a PARTICULAR study (for this post, it's about this news)only. This is not a general statement. In just 3 months of collecting/posting health news, I've come into studies, yet again revised. We must remember that these are studies, trials, researches that could bring about several outcomes, hence the need to retract at times. This is not the end of infertility treatments, more will come.

My eldest was born 2 years after marriage. I underwent several tests, there was nothing wrong with me. Finally, it was husband's turn to be examined, it's where the fault lies. Having a stressful job could affect you tremendously. And if you plan to start a family, you need to look into this factor. Again, there are several.

Anonymous said...

Julie said..
Emma B said it best. I've came across the follow stats after my irritation level towards 'helpful advice' rose to the breaking point.

Granted, this isn't directly referencing 'relaxing' however it's basically the same idea.

-3 -8% of couples who adopt get pregnant and deliver a biological child after adopting one of their own.
- 3 - 8% of couples or less who ceased infertility treatments before starting the adoption process ended up getting pregnant on their own. (http://encyclopedia.adoption.com/entry/pregnancy-after-adoption/285/1.html )

The article where I found this can be found at the following link:

Oh and to those who think 'why not adopt', it's the same result - either you don't have children, don't want children or are incredibly fertile and have no idea what it's like not to have your own children.

Sorry to vent, but seriuosly, put yourself in someone else's shoes before making crazy comments.